Martin-General Dynamics WB-57F
"Bondo Phil" Brandt
Had it happened today, I would have thought I had been beamed to Area 51.
But, in 1968 most folks, including Bondo, had few clues about Groom Lake and "Dreamland". Half a world away from "The Ranch", on a sparkling Fall afternoon at Rhein-Main, West Germany, I was out on the MAC ramp, waiting to start a European trash-hauling mission in one of our Dover Shakeys. The covert RB-57F slowly moved out of a large hangar across the runway from our MAC area. The tips of its grotesquely proportioned wings almost touched the taxiway as it waddled toward the runway, surrounded by so many flashing lights that I thought the skycops were having a convention.....an airplane like no other this thirty year- old had ever seen.
The pilot started his takeoff at midfield and seemed to be airborne instantly, maintaining an extremely steep climb angle until the huge wings were out of sight. Although my Top Secret clearance and "need -to-know" weren't up to that needed to be privy to his flightplan, I guess I don't need to mention that the border with then East Germany was a short hop from Rhein-Mud Flugplatz...
The "Mach 2" label says it all: relatively rough molding with lots of flash, large spigots, so-so fit, poor clear parts and a certain crudeness of detail in the small components. Tamiyagawa 'assemblers' need not apply.
I didn't worry about cleaning up the flash and muted details of many of the small parts, since it appears that Mach 2 appropriated Testors parts as masters. From a well-molded Testors B-57 kit Bondo cannibalized the cockpit tub, seats, instrument panels, control yokes, landing gear doors, struts and wheels, nosegear well, canopy-raising assembly, antennas, pitot tubes and last, but not least, the windscreen and canopy.
The wing trailing edges were too blunt and had to be judiciously thinned. Mach 2 and other kit manufacturers all seem to have varying degrees of difficulty in producing the correct "fat" profile of the large TF-33 fan sections. Bondo wussed out here, electing to employ the close-enough-for-government-work method. The fan bypass outlets have not been refined by Mach 2, and are blunt plastic edges which, in the real thing, would scale out to about six inches! These outlets were Dremeled to a finer edge, with thin plastic dividers added for realism. Exhaust tubes were deepened for scale effect.
I used True Details Escapac seats which have good detail, including molded-in harnesses and seat belts. Both aircrew positions were embellished with scratchbuilt details and Reheat PE panels and consoles. The back of the nav's instrument panel was scratchbuilt also. The canopy was detailed with defroster ducting, mirrors and lift mechanism. Antennas, rotating beacons and static dischargers were scratchbuilt from pics in references below.
The model consumed a requisite amount of easy-sanding 3M Blue Acryl automotive putty (again, "Mach 2" says it all!), topped with two coats of lacquer primer as a sealer coat against the plastic-etching action of Alclad I and II. At least four shades were used.
The Mach 2 decals were tossed, and aftermarket sheets (Microscale) furnished numbers, letters, emblems and wing-walk strips. The "WEATHER" letters--the 'RBs' all eventually changed to 'WBs'--on the vertical fin were rub-ons over multi-layered, scratchbuilt blue and yellow decal bands.
"Martin/General Dynamics RB-57F", Aerophile, Vol 2, No. 3, 1980. Easily the best, most detailed summation (long-defunct Aerophile magazine was a class act--after all, Jay Miller was editor!) of the long- wing project. Outstanding pix and drawings, including a large foldout section. This long-defunct pub can sometimes still be found at vendors tables.
"B-57 Canberra in Action", Squadron/Signal Number 77.
"The Martin B-57", Robert Mikesh, The Schiffer Military Library.
Text Copyright © 2000 by Phil Brandt